Since the 2000’s I’ve been working on online business; first with websites and since 2013 with apps, having launched 200+ apps. Lots of them haven’t worked out, but some of them had, and I have definitely learnt a lot from all of them.
This is the first in a series of posts based on my own experience in which I’ll offer my ASO and App Marketing tactics for getting installations and making money with apps. Unlike Facebook Ads or Google Ads campaigns, those tactics do not always have to be paid for. On the contrary, we are attempting to invest as little as possible while getting the most out of it.
“The app business is a volume business.”
It’s commonly argued that the mobile app and game industry is a volume business, especially in circumstances where the revenue model is based on delivering advertisements. To monetize and make money, you’ll need a large number of installs / users and, as a result, ad impressions. Another strategy is to have a huge number of apps, which will get a lot of impressions even if they don’t get many installs. After all, the more impressions we get, the more money we’ll make from commercials. That’s the point: installs or apps volume. If we can acquire both… It becomes even great
“Niches” (market niches) have been discussed in the SEO / web world for a long time now, but not in the ASO / apps world (although I talked about it in this podcast in spanish). That’s the key of this article, to locate app niches that will allow us to make money without a huge number of downloads.
There are topics / niches in both App Store and Google Play that are HIGHLY PROFITABLE (HIGH Google AdMob RPM) and have few competition. This will let us make money with apps that get less downloads and are unnoticed on the app stores, which is why they don’t appear in the app store rankings. Those niches aren’t massive, in other words, they aren’t topics of interest for most of the population (as it can be the case of a casual game or e-commerce like Joom or Amazon). However, in these niches, even if they have low or very low demand, advertising is paid very well:
RPM = Revenue Per Mille
In today’s post we are going to see how to make around 2,500€ / month using AdMob with a really simple app, which is available on Google Play and gets a low volume of installs per day. Nevertheless, I’m sure that doing some changes it’s possible to increase the number of downloads and the revenue… I’ll tell you all about it in future articles.
But now, let’s cut to the chase!
- Step 1: Pick a well-paying topic.
This is the most crucial stage. We need to be able to identify topics that are both in great demand (in terms of the amount of people searching for them) and well-paid. How can we tell if a topic or niche is popular? With ASO tools like ours, it’s simple.
Detecting well-paid topics, on the other hand, is relatively simple:
Why do we do this search? Because AdSense and AdMob are first cousins and, almost certainly (and in my experience that’s the case), topics that are well-paid in AdSense are also well-paid in AdMob.
In this app’s case, I searched for a topic that’s very well-paid on web and, as I’ve seen so far, it’s also well-paid on apps.
My advice? Search for topics with high RPMs, try to launch simple apps and analyze results. Replicate what works. Get rid of what doesn’t.
Once we have chosen the topic, the next step (Step 2) is to make the app. For example, imagine you choose the topic “cooking recipes”. You would need to make an app, as simple as possible, that has cooking recipes. When we have our app ready to be published, we’ll start with ASO
Step 2: App and SDKs
As I’ve mentioned before, the app used on this experiment is a very simple app that does a very concrete task. There’s no point in “getting crazy” with the development and taking months to get it ready… The app includes the following SDKs:
- Google Analytics to measure user behavior. This will help us to see if our users tap where we need them to (events), time spent on the app, screens seen, active users, downloads per country and more information. Now I also use Facebook Analytics.
- Google AdMob to monetize with ads, the ad formats used were banner and interstitial.
- Sashido as MBaaS / Back-end to manage the app database in the cloud.
- OneSignal to automate and send segmented push notifications. It’s free and really cool.
I’m not going deeper into the technical / development field because that’s not my thing. Some years ago I played with some app builders, but I decided that developing my own apps was a better idea or hiring a badass Mobile Apps Developer .
Step 3: ASO (App Store Optimization)
ASO is the process that helps us maximize our app’s profitability. Either because it helps us get more organic and free downloads, or because it helps us lower acquisition costs (if we run paid marketing campaigns), or both. In the end, ASO helps us to earn more money.
There are many different ways (and tricks) to accomplish ASO; it all depends on the project, and everyone has their own, but I’ll tell you how I do it and how I did it for this app:
- Keyword Analysis and Optimization
1.- It may be habit, but I prefer to perform ASO in US English and then localize it to the other languages / nations later.
2.- Before utilizing any tools, I make a list of 5-10 English keywords that are relevant to the chosen topic.
3.- I look up those keywords on Google Play USA and collect the top 5-10 apps that rank for each of the keywords. Furthermore, I choose the app with more downloads + ratings and I add it to TheTool. I’ll work with it to define the keywords of my project. Later on you’ll understand why I do this.
4.- I use the Keyword Density tool in TheTool to analyze the density of the app listings that I saved in point 3 and I add the ones that are most related to the topic (and product) and those which have the most density in the listing of the previously added app –this is basically keyword spy-. It doesn’t matter if they are competitors’ keywords (brands), it will be useful for us to monitor them, although I WON’T work with them in the listing.
5.- Once I have 25-30 keywords added in the USA, I use the suggested keywords function (auto-complete) and the Keyword Suggest tool to detect more keywords, most of them mid and long-tail, and I add them, too:
Why do I work with suggestions of keywords from Google Play and decide to work with some (most of them) in my app’s listing? Very simple: Google Play suggests them because they are searched… And where there are searches, there are downloads 😉
6.- Once I have selected 150-200 keywords for USA (English), it is time to work with every possible language. I won’t say too much at this point > you can read here more on how to optimize a listing on Google Play for ASO. Basically, you need to use the most important keywords in Title and Short Description and play with the keywords density in Description. IMPORTANT: Make the listing in every language possible, to make your app available for a global audience. How? Don’t kill brain cells… Use Google Translate to translate Title, Short Description and Description. After some time, if a country shows good results, you can work with a translation company / freelancer to make it more PRO and to rank even better in that country.
BE CAREFUL: Creating the list of keywords in every language doesn’t mean we have to monitor all countries, we only need to monitor the most important ones (or those that get more downloads).
These are the steps I take to make the ASO listing of an app.
It’s time to launch the app once you’ve completed the store listing in EN-US (English) and all of the other languages you’ve chosen. We’ll gain money if we’ve done our ASO well in terms of listing and are able to obtain more installs simply by getting the app published in ALL COUNTRIES. Not if we didn’t. There is no business without installs.
Step 4: Organic Downloads, Social Locker, and Cross Promotion FTW
You could believe everything is finished once the app is up, but it isn’t. It’s time to get to work.
Getting downloads is critical for every mobile business, and increasing visibility on app marketplaces is also beneficial. The higher the number of downloads, the higher the ranking and visibility. Besides, it will be really hard to get more ratings and feedback without downloads 😛
Once we upload our software, it will begin to receive a few downloads, but this will not be enough for it to “fly.” It was sufficient a few years ago, but not any longer.
Installs can be obtained using Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Ads, Snapchat Ads, Twitter Ads, display networks, and influencer marketing… There are several ways to obtain downloads, but the one that interests us the most is the one that is the least expensive. That’s where Cross Promotion comes in, since it allows one of our apps / games (APN) to get more downloads from another of our goods, as long as they’re on the same or similar topic. Cross Promotion, on the other hand, will not be effective…
We have our own / native format for Cross Promotion that doesn’t occupy advertising slots and is managed with Sashido. Working with MBaaS is always good.
Apart from that, why shouldn’t we “block” one of the sections (those that are more interesting) of our app and ask to the user to invite more people to download the app in order to unblock the section? If we do it right, it will be another source of installs. And free.
Once we start getting downloads (and, therefore, reviews and ratings), our app will start getting more visibility in search, keywords will improve their rankings and organic downloads will come:
Step 5: The Importance of Customer Reviews and Ratings
User ratings and reviews, in addition to downloads, have a significant impact on ASO. They not only improve search visibility, but they also affect the Conversion Rate to Download. The more ratings / reviews there are, the more visibility and downloads there are. Remember that ASO is Traffic + Conversion.
The technique for soliciting ratings and reviews from app users is straightforward: in this app, we asked for user feedback after he used it more than X times and completed a certain job more than Y times. Why? Because this ensures that the user interacts with our app and is satisfied. The more satisfied users are, the better.
I use X and Y because I like to change those variables from an MBaaS such as Sashido or any other service available on the market (you can check some of them out in this article about MBaaS). That way, I can change values without having to update the app, and I can see the effect those changes have on what I’m doing.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that tells us in what moment we need to ask for user ratings. We have to do many tests to nail it.
Step 6: Push Notifications
Push Notifications are a fantastic idea! They allow us to engage with users even when they are not using our app, allowing us to enhance app usage. Our app will receive more user sessions, ad impressions, and money if we are able to send alerts correctly.
In our situation, I began by sending manual pushes in multiple languages, with and without Emojis, until I discovered which had the highest open rate. After that, I used the OneSignal API to automate it, and now… Pushes operate on their own!
Step 7: Using Google AdMob to monetize
When working with websites with AdSense, we have a plethora of ad placement alternatives. It’s a little different in the app world and with AdMob, and we choose the classics: banner and interstitial (full screen) among all the available formats, and we don’t have much to say about location…
Without a question, interstitial is the most effective format, but banner should not be overlooked.
My strategy in that aspect is very simple: banner in all app views (above or below, we need to test it) and interstitial every X views. As I did with ratings and reviews, I manage X from back-end. That way, I can test and find out which is the optimum value for revenue.
Here’s a screenshot of the total revenue since the app was launched:
Looking for Google AdMob RPM’s Holy Grail…
The truth is that this app has an extremely high RPM in general (as seen at the top of this post), but when we look at it by country:
If you take a closer look, these countries make a significant profit with few impressions and a low number of clicks, And they can still increase, for sure.
Well, well, check out Australia and United Kingdom… We’ll have to focus on them.
The RPM from the screenshots above probably won’t scale, but it if we manage to increase the impressions volume, RPM sure will stay high 😉
I said before that I’m a digital marketing romantic. That’s why (and for other funny reasons) I like to get some links to all the apps and games that I launch. There are many ways to get backlinks, but the most effective are media publications, startups board and working with PBN (Private Blog Network).
In a Nutshell:
In essence, these are the steps to follow:
- Step 1: Choose a niche
- Step 2: Develop the app
- Step 3: Do ASO and publish on the Play Store
- Step 4: Get downloads
- Step 5: Get ratings and reviews
- Step 6: Push Notifications strategy
- Step 7: Monetize
It is completely conceivable to identify app niches that can be very profitable with low install volume, and to create simple apps by hiring a professional App Developer that allow us to carve out our own space in those niches and earn money. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting a large number of apps. Keep that in mind…
“The app business is a volume business.”
And here’s how to make 2,500€ per month with AdMob using a very basic app with few downloads. What are your thoughts about it? I eagerly await your input in the comments section. I’ll be posting additional monetization case studies soon. Keep an eye out for updates.
Will you share it with others? It would be much appreciated!